Junk Food Swaps - Business Media MAGS

Sunday Times Healthy Times

Junk Food Swaps

How swapping out food with little to no vitamins, minerals, or fibre can combat the obesity and chronic disease causation battle. By Anna Trapido.

Definitions differ, but almost everyone understands the term “junk food” to mean industrially processed, high-calorie, low-nutrient edibles containing trans fats, refined sugar, salt and an assortment of unpleasant additives. Almost everyone hankers after this sort of unhealthy sweet, salty, fatty food at least some of the time, but there are relatively simple swaps that can cool at least some of the cravings.

Speaking of cool, what is summer without ice cream? Those looking for a lower fat and sugar-laden alternative will adore Dr Tracy Nelwamondo’s Modern Traditions marula nut “milk” and baobab vegan ice “cream”. Nelwamondo’s fabulous frozen dessert is wonderfully “creamy” in taste and texture.

Want chocolate chips on that ice cream? Don’t deny yourself, do as Darth Vader does and come over to the dark side. Dark chocolate has less fat and sugar than milk or white chocolate and is packed with antioxidants. Plus, its uber-intense tastes tend to reduce the urge to overeat. Chocolate studies suggest that dark chocolate with 50–70 per cent cacao enhances blood flow, improves gut health and eases stress. Despite its potential benefits, dark chocolate can be high in calories and saturated fat, so eat it in moderation. Fortunately, dieticians say that the intense taste of deeply dark chocolate (such as Afrikoa’s 80%) means it only takes a few squares to satiate most stomachs.

Very few of us can control our consumption when it comes to potato crisps, which is a problem because these are often fried and super-salty. Too much sodium can cause increased blood pressure and heart disease. Try swapping chips for chickpeas, it’s not the same, but tossed in a little olive oil, chilli powder and cumin, they provide a similar moreish nibble and crunch sensation.

Three healthy restaurants

  1. Leafy Greens Café. Gauteng. Veggielicious, super-food chic. Breakfast on bold spicy ginger shots and gluten-free pancakes. Savour the cauliflower kale with organic wine to wash it down. www.leafygreens.co.za
  2. 3638 Shalati Junction. Even the most dedicated animal observer must occasionally stop for food. So, put down the binoculars and pick up a fork at Kruger Park’s Shalati 3638 culinary complex. Chef Andrew Atkinson’s stylish bistro menu includes pies made from low fat, locally sourced, sustainable venison. For those who don’t want to eat the wildlife they watch, there are superb ancient grain, low GI salads. www.krugershalati.com
  3. Emazulwini Restaurant, Cape Town. Chef Mmabatho Molefe’s tiny, harbour-facing, modern Zulu restaurant offers all the health-promoting properties one would expect from one of Southern Africa’s great ancient food genres. Fermented mabele (sorghum) rich in beneficial bacteria and enzymes is topped with braised ulimi noshatini tongue. Heritage maize, marula nut and legume melanges for vegetarians. Great Isijingi (pumpkin porridge) for pudding. www.instagram.com/emazulwini_restaurant/

Immune-boosting South African eats

While the following proudly South African eats don’t constitute diagnosis or prescription, they can help to support immune function.

  • Thepe. What’s not to love about free, healthy food? Amaranth (aka thepe is not indigenous to South Africa, but has long since run wild and made itself at home in Mzansi. Widely cooked as morogo, it grows out of almost every crack in the pavement and on the edge of every farmer’s field. Packed with vitamins C and E, it is also rich in minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
  • Mopane worms (aka masonja). Gram for gram, mopane “worms” (they are actually caterpillars) contain more protein than beef. They are also a superb source of immune-boosting iron and zinc.
  • Turmeric (aka borrie). South Africa’s favourite yellow rice spice contains curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Snoek (and other oily fish). These are great sources of immune-empowering omega-3.

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